Mumbai/New delhi: National flag carrier Air India Ltd has lost at least Rs 150 crore in revenue as a strike by a section of pilots entered the eighth day when both the pilots and the government hardened their stances.
On Tuesday, aviation minister Ajit Singh said in Parliament that the pilots had started the flash strike without consulting with ministry officials.
Rethinking support: Aviation minister Ajit Singh said the centre cannot continue to pour money into Air India unless the carrier performs. By Pradeep Gaur/Mint
The Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG), which was deregistered by the airline for going on strike, said it wasn’t going to call off the strike even as it initiated efforts to start a dialogue with the ministry.
The grouping is demanding that training on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet planes be restricted to pilots belonging to the erstwhile Air India, which merged in 2007 with state-run Indian Airlines to form National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, later renamed Air India Ltd.
“In retrospect, the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines was not right. Progressive integration of schedules and human resources issues were not addressed,” Singh said. “But merger was right decision at that point of time.”
The issue was discussed under rule 193, which is used only for critical issues. The motion was filed by Communist Party of India’s Gurudas Dasgupta on the “need to bring comprehensive policy changes in the civil aviation sector due to large scale mismanagement in the affairs of national flag carrier Air India and also some other private carriers.”
In a letter dated 14 May, a joint forum of unions in Air India had written to Ajit Singh that the group shared the minister’s opinion that merger of Air India and Indian Airlines has resulted in a failure.
“A series of strike notices and two disruptions are outcome of the ill-conceived merger. No industry can work peacefully unless human resources issues are resolved. At this juncture of total deadlock, we plead your esteemed office to be proactive,” the letter said.
As part of the strike, nearly 350 IPG pilots reported sick. Air India has terminated the services of 71 pilots. In addition, the management has also requested permission from aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation to cancel the licences of 11 pilots.
Air India was forced to cancel almost all long-haul flights and some of its domestic flights because of the strike on Tuesday.
Singh said in Parliament that the government cannot pour public money to Air India to keep it afloat unless the carrier performs.
In mid-April, the government announced a Rs 30,000 crore bailout package for 10 years for the airline that had a total debt of Rs 43,777 crore on 31 December. It has accumulated losses of Rs 20,000 crore over the past four fiscal years.